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What is Yoga?

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Yoga is not just about bending the body, as is the general perception - it is actually all about bending the mind.

Well, we know the benefits of bending the body (any physical activity) like a lean body, fitness, and health. But why bend the mind (or gain mastery over it)????

According to Yoga, Mind is conglomeration of thoughts. It has 2 facets - one being the lower mind ie. “manah/ manas”; and the other being the higher mind ie. “budhi” or intellect. Both together form the Thinking apparatus.

Functions of the lower mind are to perceive (manah), remember (chitta), and connect with ego (ahankara). Eg: I see a sweet. I perceive it through my senses as “It is looking nice, has a wonderful flavor and color.” Immediately, my memory comes into action, and says, “Hey! it is that special sweet I ate at the wedding!” No sooner do I say so, ego comes into the picture saying, “I had liked it. It was tasty, and I WANT IT.” The nature of the lower mind is to always to oscillate/ change (chanchala). It says, “Eat this nice sweet.” But, at the same time, it says, “Don’t eat this - it’s not healthy.” So, “Should I, should I not?? Should I, should I not??” is always the question.

The higher mind is stable. It has discretion power, and the right knowledge. It directs the lower mind to do the right thing. Eg. I see a beautiful flower in a park. My memory says, “It is a rare variety.” My ego says, “I like it and I want it.” But the intellect clearly tells me it does not belong to you. You cannot pluck it.” It tells me what is right and directs my “manah” to do so.

But, this oscillating “manah” is the whole problem. It gives me umpteen numbers of logical reasons “to DO” something, and at the same time “NOT to do” it! It confuses me. It cannot decide nor does it listen to the intellect because we have habituated the mind to its “manmaani”. Ultimately emotions take over, and the intellect is overruled to decide what “manah” wants to do. Eg. The “manah” might say, “Pluck the rose when the guard is not looking.” or “Eat the sweet - it’s ok! Big deal!” And we end up doing so. Thus, mastering the mind and allowing intellect to take over is the solution for all our problems. The big question is HOW DO WE GAIN MASTERY OVER OUR MIND????

There are different ways to do so. Some of them are:

Jnana Yoga: The path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation.

Bhakti Yoga: The path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, and service to the Divine.

Karma Yoga: The path of action, service to others, and actions or karma in the world without any expectations.

Raja Yoga: The direct encounter with and transcending thoughts of the mind.

Hatha Yoga: Asanas (physical postures), pranayama, or kriyas (cleansing processes) and all external activity that helps us reach that state of mind. The philosophy here is that the Mind is not easy to handle. So, use body and breath to handle it, because both are interconnected. This happens - provided we do the practices with awareness and by internalizing them as well.

Also, Yoga Asanas make the body flexible, joints supple, strengthen and tone the muscles, improve circulation, stimulate the organs, and correct the glandular system of the body, which can generally result in better health by bringing a harmonious balance within our system.

Why do we have so many techniques of yoga? Each one of us is different. So for each personality, a different type of Yoga might be more suitable. For the vast majority of people, a blending of different traditional types of Yoga is most appropriate.

Simply put, Yoga is to calm down the mind, minimize thoughts, instead of dwelling on the past and future, being in the present, relaxed in body, balanced in emotions, sharp in intellect and memory. All this obviously leads to health, productivity, success, bliss, and knowledge. Ultimately, it leads us to liberation (nothing external disturbs the internal peace) - the final goal of all living kind.

Make an effort to learn Yoga in its true form and enjoy Health & Bliss.

Gauri Rokkam

Holistic Nutritionist & Yoga Therapist

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